Bush did not deny the weekend reports by "The Washington Post" and "The New Yorker" magazine, but described them as "wild speculation." U.S. officials say they are seeking a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. But they say all options remain on the table.
"I read the articles in the newspapers this weekend," Bush said today. "It was just wild speculation, by the way. What you are reading is wild speculation, which is, kind of a, you know -- happens quite frequently here in the nation's capital."
Bush added that the "doctrine of prevention is to work together to prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear weapon. I know, I know we hear in Washington, you know, prevention means force. It doesn't mean force necessarily. In this case, it means diplomacy."
U.S. White House spokesman Scott McClellan also said the focus is on a diplomatic solution. "We're working quite hard on what is a very difficult issue. And we have had some success over the past year in building greater and greater consensus about the fact that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon, the technology to build a nuclear weapon, or the know-how to build a nuclear weapon."
EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana on April 10 also dismissed the reports, but said that the EU could consider sanctions on Iran if diplomatic efforts fail.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said Washington is not seeking a solution to the dispute but is instead trying to turn it into a crisis.
(compiled from agency reports)
Economic sanctions could further undermine Iran's already shaky economy (Fars)
MOVING TOWARD SANCTIONS: If the United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on Iran, domestic support for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad will wane, according to ALEX VATANKA, Eurasia editor for Jane's Information Group.
Vatanka told a February 24 RFE/RL briefing that "economic sanctions will hurt the average Iranian" and, consequently, many "will blame the ruling clerics" for making life difficult and "impairing the country's long term development."
Vatanka said sanctions would be a serious challenge to the Iranian government. If harsh economic sanctions were imposed, Iran's poorest population will be hurt the hardest -- and might react "as they did in the 1970s and protest in the streets." Sanctions on travel, Vatanka said, would hurt a many Iranians because "Iran is a nation of small traders" who depend on the ability to travel to earn an income. According to Vatanka, unemployment in Iran is estimated at 30 percent, "so small trading is essential to survival." Although current U.S. sanctions "haven't worked," he said, "Iranians fear an oil embargo." He stressed that "oil revenues are a major part of the economy, so it is critical to look at this sector."
Should negotiations with the European Union and the UN fail, Vatanka believes that Iran would follow a "North Korea model," since Ahmadinejad's base of support among the "Islamist militias" has been "urging withdrawal from the NPT [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty]." The Iranian government's "tactic" so far, Vatanka said, is governed by the belief that "by shouting the loudest, you'll get concessions [from the West]."
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